Colonialism, Private Property, and Repairs

As several commentators have recently had to address reparations while the proliferation of white, male Bernie Sanders’ supporters talk over and for other groups (“Bernie Bros”), thought it may be time to have a discussion on what reparations could look like since many seem stuck on the notion of cash payouts. First, a primer on the relationship between race, class, gender, and property.

Race is a social construct made necessary for the wealth exploitation of racism, an invention of the colonizing West dating back at least to the Spanish explorations  exploitations of the New World and the Portuguese explorations exploitations of Africa. Racism was a necessity for the wealth building that would be the foundation of capitalism and the modern world, by which most of the world is still exploited vis a vis racism.

The legacy of the United States and other Western powers, as marked by none other than Marx, in regards to black and native people is one of severe wage theft and land plunder, buoyed by state-sanctioned murder. This is not a radical or new concept to anyone familiar with US history near the margins; this is the foundation of land grabs and reservations, chattel slavery and sharecropping, Jim Crow and mass incarceration necessary for American economic and military expansion. This is the legacy of colonialism and empire brought to a head.

This theft and murder did not end 150 years ago nor 50 years ago nor – despite a slowing – will it end anytime in the foreseeable future on its own. There is a necessity to correct the evils of police brutality and mass incarceration focused on black and brown people as well as the numerous schemes* to steal the labor, wages, property, and wealth of Native and Black people. To not correct and make right is to accept the evils of racism and exploitation through the course of American blood.

In a White Supremacist Capitalist system like the United States (or the rest of the West), we cannot come to terms with classism and wage theft without antagonizing racism.

Likewise, we cannot hope to defeat racism without confronting classism.

Indeed we also cannot address these concerns separate from sexism and gender.

We cannot center these concerns on the feelings of white men. We cannot understand the gravitas of these concerns without considering how they affect the Black and Native family and the ones directly affected by it due to their weight and responsibility – the women in these communities.

Not class over race but race as a tool of class with different strata depending on ethnicity and color. Starting as early as Reconstruction, Black people were made to be the permanent underclass of the United States, partially as a means of keeping the white masses in check. Natives are in a continual genocide-erasure, as a means of continuing to claim deed over the nation’s lands.

But I’m honestly more interested at this point in how reparations can work. To me, the notion of cash payouts makes little sense. The money is there, the money is gone – this is the fate for all poor people within a status-heavy consumer capitalist society. This is why lottery winners go broke within a few years. Poor people are exploited even with our wealth.

What does make more sense is community investments.

The following loose suggestions are based in large part on years of living in highly segregated Chicago and from hearing others. So there are a few biases here – some ideas are more thought out than others (ie, I don’t know nearly as much about Native communities), but the idea is to offer suggestions and begin to get the creative juices flowing. Feel free to add, think about, take, adapt in the comments and elsewhere.

Reparations for African Americans:

  • Land and property within African American communities given to those communities. This would include vacant lots, abandoned buildings, residential buildings. To be divided up according to community needs and desires.
  •  Grants for businesses within black communities, including lending institutions, grocers
  • Influx of black-owned and operated grocers provided by funds
  • Land and water set aside for urban farming purposes
  • Part ownership of all US-based banks, universities, and other institutions that profited heavily from slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, housing theft on the backs of Black labor and violence.

Reparations for Natives:

  • Full sovereignty of lands
  • Minority stake/ownership claims in all US corporations
  • Taking down of all Indian Mascotry in sports
  • Business and community investments

Reparations for Women:

  • Universal, unquestioned access to reproductive rights
  • Universal childcare
  • Comprehensive and age-appropriate sexual and gender justice training throughout schooling
  • Comprehensive domestic violence and abuse prevention training and resources
  • Laws protecting against gender wage disparity

Primarily though, the work of reparations is to repair and thus must be both of liberatory and solidarity actions in steps, goals, and outcomes. I believe that public works and public goods programs will lift all working class and middle class families, but proportionately the above. Minimum basic income would raise all out of poverty (with the exception of undocumented citizens at present rate of national conversation. Something else will need to be in place for their protections), but particularly for women and people of color as well as poor white people. Universal childcare will mostly positively affect mothers, but other parents as well.

It’s I think important to note that these gender and racial thefts are components of a wider scale plan and system against the overwhelming majority of people in both the United States and in the worldOxfam recently released a study showing that the world’s 69 richest people hold as much wealth as half the people in the world – that’s 3,500,000,000 people who collectively have as little scrape together as less than 70 people. And the wealth of those top 69 people has only increased in the last five years – by 42% – while the wealth of the lower 3.5 billion fell 41%. In 2015, for the first time, 1% of the world’s population owns more assets than the other 99%.

So the problem is widespread, but by reducing racism and sexism and making repairs to those who’ve been harmed by it, we can open up the doors for all to benefit.

 

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*Pay day and car title loans, check cashing stations, preventative childcare costs, prepaid phones, redlining, rent rates, gentrification, policing fees, cash bail – all unfairly and unduly targeting the black working class.

Does #BlackLivesMatter Need the Church?

My undoing may be my morbid curiosity with how mainstream Evangelicalism responds and reacts to movements of liberation and to the needs and material lives of People of Color – but especially when the two are together. For these reactions tell us something about the soul of White Evangelicalism, how it is concerned with a certain status quo, and how that status is whiteness and the quo is individuality.

After the brouhaha about InterVarsity Fellowship’s declaration for (later tamed down to a “discussion about”) Black Lives Matter, Christianity Today – the imprint closest to what we’d consider the heart of the Evangelical Mainstream and thus the nearest singular approximation to its soul – published a review of Jim Wallis’ new book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America. Christianity Today’s title of the review of this mainstay within the political left wing of Evangelicalism? “Why #BlackLivesMatter needs the church: The fight for racial justice in America can’t succeed without a God-centered vision.”

Read that again.

“Why #BlackLivesMatter needs the church: The fight for racial justice in America can’t succeed without a God-centered vision.”

Not, “Why the church needs #BlackLivesMatter” or “How can the church support #BlackLivesMatter and black lives”.

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no no no no no cat

nope nope nope nope

Despite differences with Joshua Ryan Butler, the reviewer of the book, (who felt that Wallis’ anti-racism wasn’t theologically grounded enough within the work itself. We’ll address that in part later), he confirmed to me that he did not write the title, nor was there anything within the article itself that would lead to the same conclusion that the title and subtitle did. The problem may just be that some of the Christianity Today editors write these titles and others are just fine with these titles. 

A magazine that occasionally features writing by a Neoconfederate Rape Apologist (Douglas Wilson) and that last year had a cover feature on a White Messiah who financed the Kony 2012 project and a paramilitary group in Central Africa is not in a position to lecture black people about what is best for black people.

But then, neither is the Church. And, as my friend Rod taught me to ask, When we talk about The Church, we should ask Which Church? Is it the White Evangelical Churches that constitute the base of Christianity Today content providers and audience? Is it the Black Churches vying for position in the post-Civil Rights Movement eras that lagged far behind the Black Lives Matter movement and most liberationist ones? White suburban Churches that call for criminalization of black people? Megachurches silent about the racial wealth gap while amassing wealth for themselves?

Why should churches have any control over the movement? What have they to offer the movement? I would ask what churches can add to the movement, and that would be a valid question for churches to consider, but that is not what CT was suggesting. In saying the movement or any racial justice movement will fail without a “God-centered vision”, it is seeking explicit control of the message and the means of the Black Lives Matter and other Black liberationist movements. And since most of the churches in America – including the vast majority of those in the Christianity Today envelope – are antagonistic towards LGBTQ people and rights, and since many White churches are pro-incarceration and pro-police…

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No.

In this era, US churches are not leading any sort of revolution for the improvement of the lives of the oppressed. Rather, they are engrossed with holding on to what little is slipping out of their fingers. Including good publicity.

But no, Christianity Today argues, black liberation cannot succeed unless it is under the same theology that 150 years ago argued for black enslavement, 50 years ago justified second-class citizenship and this year is silent about black life in a hostile country.

Christianity Today is out of its mind.

What’s observable from the review itself – without the benefit of reading the book – is that Wallis isn’t as interested in an individualistic sin-and-salvation narrative as much as between people, as social groups and social beings. Butler refers to the former as “vertical” relationships, between the one and the One and the latter as “horizontal”. He believes that this emphasis “flattens out” the Gospel, but my experience is that Evangelicalism has focused so much on the vertical that it neglects the latter, so that a little corrective, to say the least, should not be discouraged.

In fact, a practiced theology centered around Matthew 25? Sounds like something that can save the Church.

 

Martin Luther King and King Falwell

As I’ve said several times and will say many times to come, Martin Luther King, Jr. is known by most for one line in one speech and wearing suits when he protested*. It’s this sheer veneer of a hagiography of King that allows Liberty University to welcome #DonaldNaziTrump to give the MLK address. Which is weird because presidential candidate Donald Trump is basically running as a national Sheriff Bull Connor. But the higher-ups at the conservative Evangelical Liberty U, despite having many students of color, feel the xenophobic, misogynistic, racist, jingoistic Trump is an appropriate speaker for a retrospective on Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We chose that day so that Mr. Trump would have the opportunity to recognize and honor Dr. King on MLK day,” Liberty University President (and son of founder) Jerry Falwell, Jr. told The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

[Falwell] pointed to King’s principle that people should be judged, as King put it ‘not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’
“Liberty stands for that principle and I believe that Mr. Trump does as well,” he said.

Liberty’s Falwell Jr. swears that a crude, racist, violence-loving capitalist class fascist lives by Martin Luther King’s standards. Let’s think about the abundantly evident patterns being made here for a moment.

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Jerry Falwell, Jr. giving a speech at Liberty University

The first being that there is little critical analysis of King’s legacy in the public eye. Just like Jesus, we remake him in personal images because we don’t want to scrutinize the text – and even when we do, we are rarely honest about the presuppositions we carry with us in our readings.

Take this consideration in combination with the fact that Jerry Falwell, Jr. is a crude, racist, violence-loving capitalist theocrat, like his father Jerry Falwell, Sr. before him. And that he interprets others in binary models in this framework. If they are good, they think like him and are like him. If they are bad  they may or may not think like him, but are on the receiving end of his actions – for example, those Muslims that he told Liberty students to “end” and should be “taught a lesson”.

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Justin Sullivan – Getty Images North America

Contrary to King’s most famous mode of organizing, Falwell, Jr. told his Christian students that they should arm themselves. In their school. Never mind the implications of intimate violence in an environment rife with hyper-masculine theology and ecclesiology. While King advocated nonviolence as a means of organizing protest, it was as a critique of violence located within White Supremacist democracy. We can’t talk about nonviolent agitation without acknowledging that it is an organized resistance to the locus of violence: White Supremacist Empire.

King, it should be noted, was not strictly opposed to gun ownership for black families in terms of protecting their homes from direct white violence (cf Taylor Branch’s At Canaan’s Edge). Malcolm and the Panthers preached that this personal method of protection should be extended to organizational efforts against the threat of White violence. In the end, Dr. King and the Black Panthers fell to White violence and intentional disruption (and Malcolm would have likely have done so too if his life wasn’t cut short by an internal power play).

If Falwell, Jr. is to be believed and White Christians are under violent siege from Muslims, then and only then can his call to arms be taken seriously.

But

we

aren’t.

Muslims in the US and abroad are exponentially more likely to be harmed and killed by White American Christian violence than white Christians are by Extremist Muslim violence. In this scenario, Falwell represents the Klan, mob violence, and lynchings that King and his contemporaries were under threat from and (sometimes) armed themselves against.

This centering and outpouring of White violence coupled with the economic terror known as capitalism is central to how Jr. envisions Jesus and Martin Luther King. So of course Trump – another crude White Supremacist capitalist – speaking at an event honoring the pacifist, anti-racist, class-consciousness King is perfectly acceptable.

Trump, Falwell Jr. tells us, reminds him of his father.

President Ronald Reagan and Rev. Jerry Falwell

Jerry Falwell, Sr., by the way conspired with FBI Director J Edgar Hoover to spread propaganda about King and elevated American capitalism over and above the health of Black Americans. In the 1960’s, he preached that racial segregation was ordained by God. And…

In a 1964 sermon, “Ministers and Marchers,” Falwell attacked King as a Communist subversive. After questioning “the sincerity and intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations,” Falwell declared, “It is very obvious that the Communists, as they do in all parts of the world, are taking advantage of a tense situation in our land, and are exploiting every incident to bring about violence and bloodshed.”

Falwell concluded, “Preachers are not called to be politicians, but soul winners.”

Then, for a time, Falwell appeared to follow his own advice. He retreated from massive resistance and founded the Lynchburg Christian Academy, an institution described by the Lynchburg News in 1966 as “a private school for white students.”

Note: Many progressives tend to overplay Falwell’s post-Brown V. Board explicit racism as the genesis and centrality of Liberty University and his Moral Majority. Falwell Sr would later repudiate and even destroy remaining copies of sermons such as “Ministers and Marchers” and “Segregation or Integration: Which?” – arguably for political and numerical reasons, to further his reach and base among those who did not care for such explicit racism. The concern here is this false thinking that racism, like misogyny, is only real and harmful when it’s explicit rather than structural. The Moral Majority and Falwell both endorsed policies and practices which were functionally racist and sexist, but not out of a desire to be racist or sexist.

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For God and the Empire – via Wiki

In the contemporary West, the White Supremacist Empire is located in the relation that the state and its arms (the police and the military) have with corporations and banks. This was true during King’s era as seen in Jim Crow and Vietnam, and it is true in its current manifestations of the War on Crime and the War on Terror. On the rare, exaggerated, and misattributed occasion that peaceful protests get out hand and start burning or looting, White media and masses tend to focus on that rather than the White violence that is the we fail to recognize actual violence.

The actual violence is that people, and especially black and brown people, are commodified and perceived as property in the first place. We see how this happens in both practice (privatization of black and brown schools; overpolicing) and in memory (King as nice-&-eloquent black man who asked whites to free his people).

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*For more, check out Austin Channing Brown’s “What Would MLK Do?

 

Do Black Lives Matter to Evangelicals? Show It.

There’s something oddly familiar about the way that Larycia Hawkins is being treated by White Evangelicals. An intelligent black, political person with a Liberation Theology backgrond and a funny (by Anglo standards) name makes statements in solidarity with Muslims. The result is that conservative White Evangelicals question her loyalty and fidelity to America and to Christianity.

The obvious counterpart is President Obama, the “Secret Muslim” and “Terrorist Sympathizer”. In Obama’s case, fortunately, his job did not rest fully on the whims of White Evangelicals – though they have made things harder for him, and for the rest of us. The major difference of course is that Hawkins actually promotes peaceful solidarity and has not sent in drone strikes that kill hundreds of Muslim children each year (Which means she automatically gets my vote).

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Dr Hawkins addresses media at her church over Wheaton College’s actions against her

Despite Evangelical rancor, Wheaton College is not firing Hawkins because she has said or done anything opposing or outside of Wheaton’s Statement of Faith. The statement of faith is important to Evangelical concerns because it plays into the identity politics at its core – that what we believe about things is more important than what we do, who we are, how we can get along, how we treat each other. And so this document is central to Wheaton’s identity. And by way of measure, what was said in the document should be how Hawkins could understand herself to operate as a fully-engaged faculty member within the parameters of Wheaton. Within this framework, even if nudging just a bit, Larycia Hawkins and any other faculty member should be safe* from such scrutiny within the bounds of the established parameters. From the Chicago Tribune:

Hawkins has been asked to affirm the college’s statement of faith four times since she started teaching at Wheaton nearly nine years ago. She was first admonished for writing an academic paper about what Christians could learn from black liberation theology, which relates the Bible with the often-troubled history of race relations in America. Jones said Hawkins’ article seemed to endorse a kind of Marxism.

She was called in a year later to defend a photograph someone posted on Facebook showing her at a party inside a home on Halsted Street the same day as Chicago’s Pride Parade. Last spring she was asked to affirm the statement again after suggesting that diversifying the college curriculum should include diplomatic vocabulary for conversations around sexuality.

None of this is outside the parameters of the college’s SoF. But therein lies the problem. White Evangelicalism’s parameters are not just what is said, but what is implied and implicated as well particularly by its well-heeled backers.

  • Violence is God’s means to redemption.
  • Capitalism is God-ordained.
  • God blesses America.
  • Heteronormativity is God-ordained and LGBTQ people are under God’s attack.
  • European theology is superior to Black and Latin theology.
  • Abortion is the primary sin of America.

Liberation theology – which Hawkins espouses and which she was previously censured by the school for – is viewed as particularly suspect because it violates at least two, if not most or all, of the aforementioned rules. Hawkins was also previously under fire for desiring and even personally having friendly, non-antagonistic relations with LGBTQ people.

But for the most part, these are the orthodox concerns of those who fund, not those who teach and inhabit, who are actually at the frontline of Wheaton. The same can be said with concern to the Black Lives Matter staging and unqualified support that happened at Urbana this past month as well, which the collegiate missions ministry InterVarsity Fellowship followed-up with a clarification/apology statement that muddied the waters of what solidarity should look like. The event itself was a major step forward for a White-headed Evangelical organization, in its declarative proclamation that Black Lives do Matter to God and thus should to all Christians.

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Black Lives Matter t-shirts worn by worship team members at the Evangelical Urbana Conference

But this declaration scared its donor base and so IVF had to reify its commitments to the Implied Statement of Belief. In doing so, IVF leaders had to clarify that they support black lives and the pre-born. But the most important message, the one that the donors needed to hear, is that the anti-abortion message is clear and without wavering. That the lives of (cis, straight) Black men and women are important to Evangelical institutions but do not trump the current Evangelical orthodoxy cause of fighting against abortion.

To answer John Inazu’s question in the Washington Post this last week, black lives will not matter to Evangelical institutions as long as they are captive to funding by anti-black, queerphobic capitalists. Black lives will not matter to them as long as they prioritize the police over their victims. Black lives will not matter to them as long as they are in an antagonistic posture against LGBTQ people of color. Black lives will not matter to them as long as Black Thought and Black Theology is seen as inferior and outside of orthodoxy.

 

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*I know this is all very unfamiliar with those of us from state and non-fundamentalist university backgrounds. However, this form of boundary-policing has been an essential aspect of fundamentalist praxis since The Fundamentals were released.

16 Things to Look Forward to in 2016, Chicago

Vigil for Bettie Jones last weekend. Jones was a Chicago grandmother shot by police for answering the door during domestic dispute as cops were shooting through her to 21 year old with a bat.

  1. Rahm Emanuel’s resignation. And not just for the Laquann McDonald cover-up but for hosts of things, some of which will be covered here.
  2. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez getting booted from office. She was part of the cover-up as well and has been extremely pro-police and pro-incarceration in ways that rival Daley and Giulliani’s pre-mayoral runs as SA’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if she also was planning on running for mayor of Chicago. You can’t use the full weight of the state’s attorney office to cover you any longer, Anita!
  3. Fewer jails. Jail and jail time, with or without prison, lead to time away from work, from the community, from family. Thus they work against communities of color and lead to cycles of poverty and high-crime, particularly where
  4. More restorative justice hubs. The amount of money that Cook County spends on incarceration contrasted with restorative justice – where the person who made an infraction works within the community to make amends and learn how to deal with issues that caused the problem in the first place – is beyond absurd. It is a fraction of a percent, at around $0.5 million to the jail’s $360 million and we need to at least double it the next year.
  5. End cash bonds. These unfairly restrict poor people, primarily those who are charged with petty crimes. Cash bonds put undue pressure on poor people – usually black Chicagoans – and the justice system, including crowding jails and tagging innocent people with guilty pledges so that they can go home. They then have an adverse affect on poor communities of color.
  6. Restore community mental health centers.
  7. Abolish Broken Windows Policing.
  8. Disband the current, corrupt, ineffecient, police-caping Independent Police Review Authority and make it truly independent.
  9. Establish proper, completely independent (no police, no police connections) oversight of the IPRA.
  10. Disarm the police. No shots. No tasers. They must learn to deescalate using actual tactics of deescalation.
  11. National gun control laws that make it nearly impossible to sell large amounts of guns – which are then smuggled into urban areas like Chicago and make it likely to end up in a shooting of
  12. Drastically increase violence intervention and prevention programs such as CeaseFire.
  13. Reorganize the Chicago Public Schools Board. It is run by capitalists and for capitalists.
  14. Fully fund publicly-controlled schools.
  15. Remove Chicago police resource officers from schools.
  16. Insert violence prevention programs and training for all staff at all CPS schools in order to equip students with violence reduction & prevention tools and embodied practice.
Ash Wednesday protest against police violence. Photo by Nancy Stone for the Chicago Tribune

Ash Wednesday protest against police violence. Photo by Nancy Stone for the Chicago Tribune

Best of 2015: Comic Book Adaptations

Due in large part to grad school, I haven’t read much in the way of books this year, nor watched a lot of movies or listened to new music (OK, that one is on me. Although I loved both Kendrick and Sufjan’s new albums). But what I have been religiously devoted to are comic book adaptations for the screen. Fortunately, this has been a really good year for them and we are living in a golden age of Superhero TV. The following list is fairly comprehensive of the major comic book brands (DC & Marvel), missing two film adaptations (Ant-Man, which will be watched whenever I get around to it, but only because I like Paul Rudd whose talents seem better suited on Parks & Recreation and both Wet Hot Summers; and Fantastic Four, which I was looking forward to watching until reading reviews, similarly for Amazing Spider-Man the previous year) and all-but-one animated adaptation (not a fan of any of the Disney XD shows right now and have yet to watch Bruce Timm’s Justice League: Gods and Monsters). While ranked, only one entry was worse than average.

10) Avengers 2: Age of Ultron – After the amazement that was Avengers and the bomb that was Captain America: Winter Soldier, not to mention the rest of Whedon-y, AoU was a singular let-down. It really felt soul-less and stifled, as if Joss was not allowed to be Joss here.

9) Vixen – Too short to be a thriller with several animated clips on the WB’s web page, but a lot of promise. Here’s to her appearance in the Arrow-verse, and likely in the second season of Legends of Tomorrow.

8) Gotham – If you’re expecting the transfiguration of Bruce Wayne or an origin story for Batman, you’ll be disappointed. Bruce is a snot. This show truly is about its namesake, Gotham, setting the stage for the Bat’s entrance a decade or so later, and its locus is the interlocking dynamics of the obsessed Det. Jim Gordon and the rising-but-petty crime lord Penguin. Jim’s often-singular focus on redemptive violence through the law and his conflicts make for an interesting character study in light of the Black Lives Matter movement (so do many of these shows, though the heroes tend to focus less on petty crimes than on big baddies).

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Up! In the air!

7) Supergirl – It took a while for this show to begin to flex its muscles, to be honest. One definite positive of the show is impetuousness of the main character, which is very much the character of Supergirl. Both incredibly intelligent and ever-ready to risk everything for the ones she loves and sometimes just for the thrill of it. The team she is assembling around her and its take on (an admittedly white, upper-middle class) feminism are both positives and negatives. Martian Manhunter, however, is one of my favorite heroes – a being in many ways stronger than Superman but filled with doubt and loneliness.

6) Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “His first name is Agent.” This show has so much double-crossing I’m always interested to see how far ahead of the field Coulson is thinking. And there’s May. I love May.

5) Agent Carter – SHIELD’s main complaint is that it has to stretch its story through an entire season. Agent Carter, however, packs a punch all throughout. Nowhere near as dark as Agents nor Marvel’s Netflix minis, and in this year, that is refreshing.

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I’ve always wanted to say this to Rahm, and now protesters are.

4) Arrow – Ok, this series was running out of steam and becoming incredibly ludicrous toward the end of its third season. But has it ever atoned for it this season with a villain who makes the great Ra’s Al Ghul seem downright civil. Arrow’s dances with villainous forces and his own darker impulses has always kept the show fresh and moving, escaping one impossible situation through a reckless deception and team-up only to raise doubt and conflict with those closest to him, which he then must rebuild. Oliver Queen’s character arc has been building since the beginning, and now in its fourth season, we are finally seeing the hero.

3) The Flash – Right from the beginning and with few faltering steps between, The Flash has inspired and terrified. Reverse Flash, and particularly the way he was developed in this series as a mentor/killer, may have been the most perfect villain ever, but despite it all, Barry Allen is always Barry.

2) Jessica Jones – Wow. First, this is the most adult of series. Not as in darkest or most violent (it was both) but as well-documented on its themes and addressing of rape culture, domestic violence, white male privilege, and abuser dynamics. Not only that, but we have the most conflicted and reluctant superhero for good reason. But, with the aid of sister-love (and a self-awareness that is able to flood out the manipulative, controlling, gaslighting villainous Purple Man), JJ almost-literally smashes [the personification of] patriarchy.

And, finally, #1:

MARVEL'S DAREDEVIL

Did you see this one coming? Huh? Huh? Get it?

Daredevil – Frank Miller’s transformation of the character also inspired the eponymous movie and may be why I didn’t totally despise it. This series is a slow-burn and a completely breathtaking bloody thriller as both Kingpin and Murdoch discover themselves. Daredevil’s super power is in perception, and his humanity is tied with his family, with Christian guilt and struggle. This keeps him as possibly the most earthy of all the superheroes, with or without superpowers. My only regret is that Frank Castle will feature in the next season.

I hate Punisher.

 

Police and Prison Abolition: Dreaming of a More Just, Less Violent World

Because Black people desire to determine their own destiny, they are constantly inflicted with brutality from the occupying army, embodied in the police department. There is a great similarity between the occupying army in Southeast Asia and the occupation of our communities by the racist police.

Huey P Newton (quoted in Bloom and Martin’s Black Against Empire)

To oppressed communities, the occupying army is never a liberator but only a powerful force of the empire that seeks to draw as many resources from the community as possible. In the era of neoliberalism, those resources tend to be of human capital. For various oppressed people within the United States, it looks similar. For Muslim and Near East, South-Asian people in the United States, they serve as intimate reminders of our War on Terror and the need to stockpile in the Military Industrial Complex. For Latin@s, it is the racialized threat of deportation, which extends in high-vulnerability times to more than just undocumented citizens – Latin@s in Anglo US are treated in ways similar to the orientalized Muslims. Native populations are still undergoing cultural and legalized genocide in order to lay claim to lands within the continent. And black Americans are inherently criminalized as a means of social and permanent-underclass control.

Human capital is capitalized through the Military and Prison Industrial Complexes as well as through managing and mitigating migration and migrant labor.

Early morning after Christmas, two black Chicagoans from the West side (just a couple miles from my residence and near where other family lives) were killed by police responding to a domestic dispute between a father and his nineteen year old son. The son – Quintonio LeGrier, an engineering student on leave from Northern Illinois University due to mental health issues – was carrying a bat and apparently threatening the father. The son was fatally shot, as was a downstairs neighbor, Bettie Jones, simply for opening her door. The father had called the police in an effort to get some help for his child, not accustomed to seeing him act in such a way.

LeGrier’s mother told media:

They did tell me he was shot seven times. That’s a bit much. That’s a bit much. I don’t take all of that. My son only weighed about 150 pounds. … Why do you have to be shot that many times? Why? If the police is trained in the field, then how, they’re just handling the situation by killing people?

The police cannot help. That is not their function or purpose. They are raised in a cop culture that treats them as hammers with every loose nail needing a violent solution. This is why they take down a fifty-three year old woman who pose no risk and a one-hundred and fifty pound teen with a baseball bat. They don’t second guess violent solutions because they are not trained to second guess violent and fatal resolutions when it comes to black lives.

LeGrier’s image held by his mother

Consider that, like the US and its military, nearly half of the general budget in Chicago goes towards the police. Consider also, according to the 2016 city budget, Chicago plans on releasing 319 officers from administrative work to directly police in “high crime areas” (p 12). For what purpose? What is a crime and who decides how to aid these communities?

The police are trained, but for what purpose? To police. To enforce borders. To minimize threats to the state and those it represents. In the United States, this threat is represented in the most intimate of ways not by white men who have caused most of the domestic and international violence in this country and through the world, but by the black population – those, as we know, forced into chattel slavery and substandard living conditions for the last four hundred years by the very white populations arming the police to intimidate, detain, and kill.

For the crime of policing – for the reasons of policing and the means of policing – we need reparations. African American and Native communities need recompense for the crimes of genocide, land-theft, chattel slavery and intentional bordering and how police have maintained these structures. Poor communities need recompense for wage and wealth theft and how the police have maintained these structures. But rather than make reparations, we are forced into racial and class policing, to keep us in line and keep the threat of blackness – which is to say the threat of resistance – at bay.

When we ask for accountability and control, we are given alternatives such as community policing, which acts as another way to police the community by training a small faction within – especially gentrifying areas – to police their own. Thus community members assist the police in restraining, detaining, reporting, and confiscating black and brown people.

CAPS [Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy, Chicago’s community & police organizing mechanism] is not an attempt to develop equal partnerships or to cooperatively address problems. They are efforts to police through the community, to enlist certain community figures and organizations to enhance the power and legitimacy of the police…

[C]ommunity policing is a misnomer. These programs result in neither democratic accountability of police agencies nor meaningful changes in police practices. Instead, they mobilize a small group of residents to provide a façade of legitimacy that allows policing to continue as usual. Community policing can result in more aggressive policing as “respectable” residents lobby to the officers to aggressively enforce low-level, nonviolent street crimes. (Counter-CAPS Report)

Rather than continue what does not work – arming and training a force towards violence and incarceration, aimed at poor and black citizens for the most petty of offenses – we need to reduce the police force by at least half and invest into making the community more safe, more whole, more responsive to its own needs. More livable for its own people.

Many of our problems are caused by the generational stigma of poverty and witnessing first-hand experiences of domestic and state violence. Children grow up with PTSD and have little recourse or guidance to deal with their anger in holistic means. Thus, survival becomes reactionary and even proactionary as several young people learn to strike-first or be killed. This is the state of detainment that we have become; not because Chicago’s neighborhoods are filled with bad people without morals, but because our city deals with us immorally.

10636593_10154139083289523_1157144482501612516_o

Screengrab via Jason Berger. Acknowledgement to John W Brandkamp

A moral budget and a moral city hall would instead divest from the police and from our carceral systems. Instead of the armed and state-backed gang of police roaming the streets looking to escalate in order to terminate conflict, we should hire corps of counselors, clinicians, mental health workers looking to solve and reduce conflict. Job and skill training workshops that feed into actual jobs situated in the communities. Instead of divesting the communities through carceral justice, invest through schools and holistic, reformative justice. Turn empty lots into assisted living complexes, affordable fresh fruit stands, and health clinics built by and run by community members.

Yes, at first it’s going to cost more. It always does when there is generational trauma to pay back. But the investment far outweighs the daily toll of death and destruction.

This reinvestment is something we need to do because we’re human.

A Hillsong Theology I: Hip V Relevant

The GQ piece on the ultra-hip, Hollywood-ish Hillsong NYC Church struck any number of – to me at least – important topics, one of which is this concept of relevance. The truth is, I don’t think Hillsong nor pretty much any megachurch (nor most churches in general) is relevant despite their hipness.

There are a few ways of understanding relevance, I know. As a linguist and a post-modern, I’m aware that there is no ‘pure’ or central definition for such a term. But I want to propose a popular definition of relevance as substantial in opposition to a shallow hipness.

Hillsong United concert, by Jiaren Lau

Hillsong United concert, by Jiaren Lau via Flickr via Wikki

First, as a post-evangelical, there is an ever-rising Hipness Christianity. This is a demonstration of Christianity that keeps up with the times. It’s hipster. It’s vogue. It wears skinny jeans and beards. Of Relevant Magazine.  To paraphrase Christian rap-pop group DC Talk, it “doesn’t change but it rolls with time.” This is what Taffy Brodesser-Anker refers to as: “Christianity’s whole jam [as] remaining Christian” in her terrific but terrifying profile of Hillsong Church in NYC. But that says nothing to me about my life and, unless fashion is all you have, I’m guessing it says little to you about yours either.

If it speaks to us merely because it imitates us, is it relevant? Maybe. But this is what I think of in terms of substantial relevance.

I think of the fact that we tell children that they need to go to school to learn to read and write and do math and recite Shakespeare and solve quadratic equations because it will help them later in life. And that may be true for a number of children. It wasn’t for me and it isn’t for any number of kids who do not see a future where calculus is of any use for them. That’s what teachers will often tell their students because it’s an easy answer. But it’s not, for one of the primary purposes of schools in poor communities of color – and poor White areas as well – is of containment. Not much in the field of education for poor children has changed since the late 19th century – students are still being trained to work in factories, with a rigid, top-down hierarchical approach, rows and columns of students/proletariat facing the front toward the teacher, uniforms, and busy-work presently in the form of standardized tests.

This isn’t to say that good education doesn’t arise from public schooling (and the charter and private schools that adhere to this method with apocalyptic zeal), but that in a very real sense, school for poor children is systemically broken. We tell kids to do something that may not hold interest to them and when they ask why – which is what kids do because they are children – we tell them it’s for their future benefit somewhere down the line. That somewhere-down-the-line may as well be imaginary for kids and youth. Why do we believe that children and teens (who are by now tired to death of hearing the same lines and seeing few results) who live in the present will attempt their best for a future decades down the line, let alone one that may never arise?

What if, instead, students learned skills that were not only useful for some future, undisclosed and blurry time but now? What if reading, writing, math, and social studies could be used to organize for better living conditions currently? Or analytical skills were sharpened to wake minds?

This is what I think of when I think of relevance. Something useful, not just hep. Something substantial. The Hip Classroom will use computers and hip hop to teach about dead white men. The Relevant Classroom will consider the edifice of hip hop and the structure of the internet.

The Hip Church will feature Justin Bieber-like music, cool clothes and a unique hat. It will be attractive, but not sexy. It may tell gay and lesbian people they are welcome to worship there. But they will not be welcome as functionally sexual beings. It will have an ethnically diverse congregation (and maybe even non-Whites in leadership), but teach an Anglo-White theology that centers individualism. It may tell you that God loves you as you are, but punishes you for gender and sexual transgressions as they understand it.

This is Hillsong. A church that fires worship leaders for “practicing” homosexuality.

Hillsong Australia, via wiki

Hillsong Australia, via wiki

It will teach a disembodied heaven and the long way to get there but with cool dressing. It’s a literal flash in the pan.

Hipness is inherently shallow. A hip education or ecclesiology will have you turn from yourself, leave behind your home language and reject your family and friends and body and sexuality, for a pie-in-the-sky notion that may or may not pan out decades later. But it can do so because its sheen veneer tricks you into thinking that it works for the present.

The Relevant Church (in this understanding) may or may not be cool, but it will speak to your soul and refashion your vision to think from the present to the future. It will remodel Christianity to its core, which is not rescuing from the world and the self but loving the world and the self within it.

 

Scandalous Theology at Wheaton

Larycia Hawkins, a tenured professor of political science at the veneered Evangelical mecca of Wheaton College, made a very controversial move during the last week. She, a Christian professor at a Christian school, decided to show solidarity with Muslims in an atmosphere of volatile hatred against Muslims by donning a hijab. This small act is, in this time, place and cultural space, a bold move that won a lot of praise (and condemnation).

I don’t love my Muslim neighbor because s/he is American.

I love my Muslim neighbor because s/he deserves love by virtue of her/his human dignity.

I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind…

I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.

But as I tell my students, theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all. Thus, beginning tonight, my solidarity has become embodied solidarity.

As part of my Advent Worship, I will wear the hijab to work at Wheaton College, to play in Chi-town, in the airport and on the airplane to my home state that initiated one of the first anti-Sharia laws (read: unconstitutional and Islamophobic), and at church.

According to the college, this tenured professor was fired over a theological point, particularly that line in the middle: “We worship the same God.” Via Christianity Today:

“Wheaton College faculty and staff make a commitment to accept and model our institution’s faith foundations with integrity, compassion, and theological clarity,” the college stated in announcing the decision. “As they participate in various causes, it is essential that faculty and staff engage in and speak about public issues in ways that faithfully represent the college’s evangelical Statement of Faith…

Wheaton College said the disciplinary action was taken not because Hawkins was wearing a hijab, but “in response to significant questions regarding the theological implications of statements that [Hawkins] made about the relationship of Christianity to Islam.”

“{T]heological implications… about the relationship of Christianity to Islam” is integral here. Because what Prof Hawkins said is theologically scandalous.

There are many ways to understand this statement. A universalist model that says that all Gods are the same; a Christo-centric model that says that (like CS Lewis did) that worshiping a God in earnestness is really worshiping Jesus. Many atheists would argue that both the Christian and Muslim Gods  are fictional and therefore yes of course we worship the same God. For her own, Hawkins points to Christian scholar Miroslav Volf who argues that Christians and Muslims and Jews pray to the same God but differ in their understandings of God – nevertheless, that does not change who God is.

As uncontroversial as one could find Volf’s position (How many friends do you have that would describe you in nearly contradictory terms?), to the fundamentalist Evangelical it is anything but. Positions and posturing about positions mean more than relationships. A declarative, definitive statement of faith means much more to Evangelical institutions than living faith out in love with neighbors in any declarative sense.

Hijab-Our-Right

Hijab Our Choice via This Is Gender

And this is the scandal of Professor Hawkins’s theology. The love of Jesus coursing through the midst of it implored her to seek theological and embodied solidarity with Muslims. This is scandalous. It is outside of the norm in a season replete with anti-Muslim hate crimes encompassing vandalism, threats, brutality, and drone campaigns. When seemingly everyone from the president of the United States to returning vets to mega-famous pastors/charity presidents to maybe even your plumber advocates some form of indiscriminate violence against Muslims, a black poli-sci professor from a conservative Christian college decided that she would wear a hijab as a form of protest against this violence.

For her, a black woman professor at a White Evangelical college, it was a moment of picking up a cross – the cross of public shame addressed to Muslim women for being in public; the daily death that Muslim women are confronted with in an increasingly hostile Islamophobic world in light of White Supremacy. 

Perhaps it is not scandalous that Wheaton College has decided that academic freedom is not something they should pursue. But that is another discussion altogether about the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, as it was framed by a former professor at Wheaton.

Rather, the cross – embodied solidarity with the imprisoned, with the poor, with the rebel, with the enemy, with those the state promotes violence against – has always been scandalous to the world. Apparently, this form of Christ-love is also scandalous to Evangelical institutions.

When White Christians Say #AllLivesMatter: #WeExpectMore

I believe that many white people, particularly white Christians, have good intent in saying “All Lives Matter” – after all, the argument goes, black people are human and are not the only oppressed people in the world. So “all lives” obviously covers theirs as well.

But All Lives is not the work of kinship. It is not acknowledging shared humanity in an honest way.

The US Constitution and Declaration of Independence are documents steeped in “all”-inclusive language, but they made provisions wherein black people are property of white slave-holders and Natives are pawned “savages” to be exterminated.

black-lives-matter

This is a world where Black people are treated

  • systemically,
  • habitually,
  • and economically

in private and public

in public schools and private homes

– and by the very state that purports to serve and protect them –

+ as less-than people,

+ as threats,

+ and as property.

The declaration that their lives do matter (and by extension, so do Native lives), that they too are human, and thus have volition and power and intelligence should never be trivialized nor violated.

To write on top of Black Lives Matter is to say that the phrase needs fixing, is to trivialize the work of activists and resisters. For white and other non-black people to (continually) do so is to say that the struggle of black people for their own survival is not good enough so we White people have fixed it for them.

This is not solidarity. This is not loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. It is harmful.

—————————

Note: This was originally a part of this response to the Gungor song, but I felt it didn’t belong there as Michael and Lisa were deliberate in not making their song say “All lives matter.” I decided to post this upon seeing the very great Austin Channing Brown having to explain why White Christians should not with the hashtag #WeExpectMore.

The Fight of Solidarity: Our Struggles Are Not the Same

  • Prologue:

There is little in the field of White worship (church) music that I can listen to anymore. Fred Hammond, Israel Houghton & New Breed, Kirk Franklin, Mavis and the Staples (tell me “Carry This Load” isn’t worship) is more along my lines. But I rather like Gungor. Their hit song “God Is Love” definitely declares that God is not a White man, that God is in fact not a man. That’s something that my eight year old daughter appreciates. I also appreciate a recent falling out with conservative Christians over Gungor’s open objection to the idea of eternal torture.

So I was a bit disappointed when I found the lyrics to a new song after someone brought up what they felt was some #AllLivesMatter erasure or derailing. And so I and a number of others asked some questions out loud.

I tweeted at Gungor not to gain notoriety or to punish the band or hurt their sales (if you think I can do that, thank you for having so much confidence in me I guess?), but because they are people who I believe will listen and whom I have faith in. During the course of our morning-long discussion on Twitter, I promised to write my thoughts out more coherently in a blog form[i]. The following is partly a reaction, but also contains many thoughts about White allyship of Black struggles and the problems of co-opting in efforts to assist that extend beyond this one song and this one group.

  • Logue:

“We Belong Together” – Gungor

We are better together

We are the day and night

Together we are stronger

We are stronger

We are better together

There is no real divide

The winter and the summer

We are stronger

All together

Every black life matters

Every woman matters

Every soldier matters

All the unborn matter

Every gay life matters

Fundamentalists matter

Here’s to life and all its branches

All together we are stronger

We belong together

 

I believe Gungor created this song as an attempt of solidarity – to show that they stand with and even personalize the Black Lives Matter movement and what it says and does. Solidarity is an action where diverse people join together around a common cause, specifically of liberation for an oppressed/marginalized/exploited people group (workers/strikers, indigenous people in the Philippines or Mexico, black Nigerian mothers and children).

Solidarity works best:

  • when we recognize both the commonality of all as well as the individuality and uniqueness of each;
  • when we are not flattened – when we don’t minimize what the represented group is going through as if we all were in the same boat;
  • when we can see the beauty of the person but also the particular ways that racism, misogyny, transmisogyny, classism, homoantagonism, bi-antagonism, ableism, ageism, etc, impact us on various spots and in various ways (ie, a white woman will experience sexism differently than a black woman who will experience it differently than a First Nations woman who will experience it differently than a Filipina transwoman).

Solidarity, then, understands the distinctions between real live experiences and their struggles and thus does not attempt to flatten them.

Industrial Workers of the World, published in Solidarity, 1917; Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology, edited by Joyce L. Kornbluh, Charles H. Kerr Publishing, 1998 via

Industrial Workers of the World, published in Solidarity, 1917; Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology, edited by Joyce L. Kornbluh, Charles H. Kerr Publishing, 1998 via

Towards the end of his blog explaining this song, Michael argues he didn’t want to wash away Black Lives Matter but wanted to add to it in order to expand sympathy for the movement. But yet, that is what effectively happened.

The unborn are not oppressed in ways similar to black people. In fact, even with “every woman matters”, adding “all the unborn matter” turns the song into a political declaration, one particularly anti-abortion. This then arguably comes at odds and undercuts the line before it where “every woman matters”. Anti-abortion rhetoric compares women who have abortions to murderers and justifies their harassment and even murder. A presidential candidate, Ben Carson, also a medical doctor, just likened abortion-seekers to slave-holders.

Fundamentalists as a class, in fact, tend to oppress children, women, and sexual minorities within their domains, and if can be, within their reach (Kim Davis, anybody??). They certainly oppress gay as well as lesbian, bi, trans, and queer people. So what is the point of putting them on the same list and saying that their lives matter the same if fundamentalist parents and churches are meting out (at times lethal) violence to LGBTQ people, as well as women+ seeking medical care for their bodies.

Herein lies the problem with the framing of the Otherization argument that Gungor tries to tackle in this song. They named groups they felt were Other-ized. But the problem is not one of feeling that the named group (whether it be fundamentalists or black people) are made fun of or not understood. That was never the intent behind #BlackLivesMatter, nor of solidarity. It is that specific people are harmed, are not allowed to live, are infantilized, are not given bodily autonomy, are hunted in the streets and at home, are incarcerated as a way of life.

That’s quite a different thing that thinking that a certain group of harassers is weird and mean.

 

To say that there is no real division between fundamentalists and the LGBTQ people they oppress is to say that the body does not matter. But Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ-freedom movement are specifically about the importance of the body: incarceration, sex, gender, rights, brutality, murder, hostility, acceptance for whom they are. To make the argument merely metaphysical is to remove it from an earthly, embodied plane of existence – to wait upon God or the cosmos or The Force to make things right.

Under faux solidarity, or forced teaming, we are not allowed to make things right right now because then we will be harming our fellow travelers. This is what this logic teaches. That by asserting rights to live and to be liberated from oppression, the oppressed cause divisions and that division harm us all. True liberation comes from the oppressors in the right time, this logic says.

This is not joining in the struggle, it is not aiding the oppressed. It is telling them that they must wait. And that does not work. It has never worked. Oppression does not relent out of the goodness of its heart.

Fauxlidarity is a philosophy and theology for and by slavers, bankers, and the heteronormative patriarchy. We need instead a praxis that focuses on the theology for and by the enslaved. A God that liberates her people and draws them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Not a God who merely promises land with milk and honey and warns against rebellion.

No Moment of Silence for Mike Brown in Seattle

No Moment of Silence for Mike Brown in Seattle

Black Lives Matter is a political, social, theological, and philosophical statement of moral resistance to the political epicenter of anti-black violence of a nation state that rests in and prospers on the blood and bodies of black and brown people. To rephrase it as a personalized philosophical statement is to ignore its power in the collective imagination. This imagination, already in action, is vital to build up a mass movement of people across divides who are willing to create polity changes that respect black life, that effectively takes swipe against the racist incarceration system and against agents of the state that seek to snuff out black life at the slightest provocation.

While it is a nice thought that:

Oceans from drops of rain

Everybody made the same

White folks, we need to talk about solidarity with the oppressed on their terms. We need to talk about intersectionality, for sure, and how we identify, and how power (politics) works within that field. We need to talk about how ideas are spread through theology, philosophy, music, social media, to imbalance or rebalance those power differentials, to work towards justice or injustice or a bit of both.

The issues facing Black people in the United States, however, are distinct from the problems facing White or second-generation LatinXs in the States. They are distinct from Desi people, Afghanis, Central Africans, let alone from fundamentalists.

And at the very least, it’s time for White pro-life Christians to stop comparing Black people to the unborn.

  • Epilogue

How to show that Black Lives Matters:

Trust them. Get involved locally in funding black communities (equitable, living wage jobs, investing fully in public education from K-Terminal Degrees, building health and mental health community centers, allowing property within communities of color to flow back to those communities) and defunding institutions that detain and defraud them (such as jails; militarized, unaccountable police; payday loan centers and banks with usury fees; for-profit education). If your community does not have a plethora of black voices, your state likely has several. If you’re in one of those states with few black people, recognize your state’s wealth is tied to theft from black and native peoples nonetheless.

But mostly, recognize that Black and Brown people are beautiful, full of life, intellect, will, survival, and love.

  • Post-Post Note:

Also worth noting is Dianna Anderson’s post on this song.

——–

[i] I’m over a month late in this response btw

#AllSheepMatter

Jesus said unto them:

“Take care that you do not despise one of these [oppressed] ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.  What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.

And the religious and political leaders answered:

But Jesus, All Sheep Matter!

What about the wolves, Jesus?

ALL Animals Matter, Jesus!

(adapted from Matthew 18, NSRV)